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There is a natural division in our annual cycle of the Church’s year. There is half a year from Advent to Pentecost to retell the events of what God has done to fulfil his promise of salvation through Jesus Christ, then another half year to work the realities of that salvation deeper into our daily lives. Six months to celebrate what God has done; six months to contemplate what God is and what He means for our everyday human existence.
So this month of May sees the final stage of that first part of the year as our Easter season progresses to Ascension Day on 9th May and reaches a climax with Pentecost on 19th May. That great celebration of our fullest understanding of the nature of God, Trinity Sunday, falls on 26th May. From then on each day that passes becomes a fresh opportunity for us to discover how God transforms the ordinariness of our daily lives with all its business and activity into something extraordinary through which his glory and purposes are revealed.
I have always loved the story of Jesus’ parting from the disciples that Luke tells us in Acts 1:1-11. Whilst the disciples were gazing into heaven, two angels appear to them (recalling for us the experience of women at the empty tomb) and challenge the disciples ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ John Stott, the biblical scholar offers this interpretation of this angelic command: he says, “until Christ comes again, the apostles must get on with their witness, for that is their mandate. There is something fundamentally anomalous about their gazing up into sky when they had already been commissioned to go to the ends of the earth. It was the earth and not the sky which was to be their preoccupation. Their calling was to be witnesses not stargazers. The vision they were to cultivate was not upwards in nostalgia to the heaven but outwards in compassion to a lost world which needed him. It is the same for us. Curiosity about heaven and its occupants distracts us from our God-given mission. Christ will come again personally, visibly and gloriously. Of that we have been assured. Meanwhile we have work to do in the power of the Spirit”. As Jesus ascends into heaven we learn he is not withdrawing into another place but is enlarging out of here into everywhere, out of now into always. The particular Jesus of Nazareth has become the universal Christ. He has been let loose in the world where no one can stop His truth. This year we will again celebrate Ascension Day by joining with others from across the Diocese at the service as Brinkburn Priory.
Our celebration of the Day of Pentecost will have a special emphasis this year as we launch the first of our ‘Family T’ services which we plan to hold once a month at 3.30pm in the Church Centre. We very much hope that through this regular short service followed by tea together we will be able to reach out to a wider group and invite them to discover just how much God loves them and how much he wants to share this love. We hope to attract a wide range of people of all ages and interests, so please come along yourself if it appeals to you and encourage others to do the same. Given that Pentecost marks the birthday of the Church we very much hope that ‘Family T’ marks the birth of a new stage of our life together in the Holy Sprit in this place. Please keep this new beginning in your prayers and encourage it in any way you can.
Enjoy this lively climax of our Easter season.
Yours in Christ,
Peter the Vicar